This week we are finishing the book of Numbers. We are in a way celebrating the completion of the Israeli nation’s journey through the desert.
We had to receive the teachings in the desert – a place in between. A no man’s land, A deserted place, where no one can claim nothing to be his or hers. An environment of nothingness, that humans are not supposed to live in. or cannot live in without the interference of a greater force. To be a Jew is to be familiar with this concept. With the desert – with this deserted place. And also to live under a conscience mind that is aware of the importance of a journey. Every journey.
In a journey, that is how the Jewish story began. When Abraham first heard the words “Lech Lecha” calling him to leave where he was, and travel to an unknown location - to a land that was promised to Him by G-d. And that is exactly how it began again here in the days of Moshe, when this family of Abraham had become a nation.
In parshat Masei, our portion, we read about how the Israeli people set out from one place and camped at another. Set out from the other place and camped at a different one. The Israeli nation have had 42 stages in a journey of forty years. We know that Israel had one Journey – from Egypt to the promised land. Ones they went out of Egypt, they immediately went out from a narrow place to a wide space. so if we are talking about one journey, why is that the portion is called Masaei as multiple journeys.
Well… that is because the Journey is a graduated progress. From gates of impurity, Israel had to climb through gates of purification until they were worthy to enter the promised land.
The lubavitche Rebbe says that the journey’s steps are there to educate us that the essence of the person is to always be walking and not standing still. The fact we managed to get out from one place does not mean we can rest and stop walking. A person must play a role every day, trying to be better then what he was before. To become a better sun, a better, grandson, a better friend, or colleague.
We know that the Jewish nation is a nation that travels - we do not stand still. And even more so. We cannot leave life without our history context. We are a nation for whom time itself is a journey through the wilderness, in search of the Promised Land. In a way, Masaei portion is not only the journey of Israel but also that of G-d. This portion display the journey of the relationship between G-d and His people.
As we know, the Promised Land is an elusive concept, if you remember we talked about the Zohars perception of the land as a will, the godly will in the Shelach lecha portion. We are to make a constant journey to reach the Godly will.
Lets talk about a journey. .
“A journey is a theme we are familiar with from the world of myth. In many cultures, stories are told about the journey of the hero. In myth, the hero usually encounters a major trial: an adventure, he fights a dragon, a dark force, maybe rescue princes and find a treasure.”
In every journey the hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. Fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won. In Myth the hero always comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power he didn’t had before. A power he needed to obtain and to achieve in a great trail or great difficulties.
In our story, the hero is not one man but an entire nation. The nation does not fight the supernatural world or trying to battle unnatural forces, but rather uses them. The Jewish story is different than that of the myth. The adventures the Israeli nation encounter is themselves: their fears, their weaknesses, their constant urge to return to the familiar, there stages of believe, including all points in time where this believe was put forth to the test. From both sides. The human and the Godly.
When engaging in the Torah study, we are excepting to have a relationship with the divine, including the up and downs. Including all difficulties. The Torah is not a myth. It remove the magical elements from the story and focusing relentlessly on the human drama of courage versus fear, hope versus despair. Believe versus the lack of it. One can ask whether in the biblical story of the Israeli nation in the desert - did G-d tested us or was it we that tested Him…
The story of the Torah is not to some larger-than-life hero but rather every human been - to all-of-us-together. It wants us to be strengthen by our ties to our heritage, to the past, to our ancestors, the divine. It wishes us to aspire for a better future and to treasure the bond with the creator, and to cherish the bond between us to ourselves.
The adjustment from slavery to the responsibilities of freedom is something that takes time. People do not change overnight. We know that evolution succeeds while revolution fails.
The Torah is not a story separated from reality but it is reality itself. The Torah is a journey we must all undertake. Without the journey, we do not grow and life is growth. We know there is no way to avoid challenge and change.
To find out more about this portion spiritual growth and the needed process enter this weeks lesson.